Bottling the essence of languages: Tolkien’s ‘A Secret Vice’

Absolutely fascinating article on Tolkien’s not so vice – assembling fictional languages, feegled from the New Statesman…

John Garth

From sound aesthetic to Finnegans Wake, a new book explores Tolkien’s relationship to language.

A Secret ViceA Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages
Ed. Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins
HarperCollins (223pp, £16.99)

Horsemen, barbaric yet noble, chant ­battle cries. Ridge-browed aliens do the same. Their words are harsh and guttural – as warlike as their weapons. Yet the Dothraki, from Game of Thrones, and the Klingons, from Star Trek, are also standard-bearers for an activity that is solitary, cerebral and painstaking: their languages are entirely made up. For the first time since the pre-1914 vogue for “international auxiliary languages” such as Esperanto, Dothraki has helped to make language invention cool.

Unlike Esperanto, Dothraki and Klingon were not created as communication aids. You can read Hamlet in Klingon, but the language was devised solely to lend a space opera atmosphere and realism. As with Dothraki, its complex grammar and substantial lexicon…

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